January 31, 2020 / 7:38 PM / 20 days ago

In rare conviction, El Salvadoran man gets maximum sentence for femicide

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The boyfriend of a slain journalist in El Salvador was found guilty of femicide and given the maximum 50-year prison sentence on Friday, a rare conviction in the deadly gender violence that often goes unpunished in the Central American nation.

Women react as they watch pictures of violence victims during a protest to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in San Salvador, El Salvador, November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Mario Huezo was convicted by a judge of killing Karla Turcios, with whom he lived and had a child with, after a nine-day trial in a court that hears gender violence cases in San Salvador.

The murder of Turcios in 2018 made headlines and prompted the government to declare a national emergency against femicide - the killing of a woman by a man because of her gender.

El Salvador, a country of 6 million people, has one of the world’s highest rates of femicide, according to the United Nations.

About 80% of all reported femicides go unpunished in El Salvador, according to the U.N.

“This (conviction) is to make it clear that in this country it will not be allowed to continue killing women because of their condition of being a woman,” lead state prosecutor Graciela Sagastume told the media outside the courtroom.

El Salvador passed a law in 2012 to define and punish femicide as a specific crime with a longer sentence than murder, with prison terms for convicted offenders of 20 to 50 years.

The law requires prosecutors to prove the motive for a woman’s murder was hatred or contempt based on gender.

Turcios, 33, whose beaten body was found dumped on a roadside, became a household name and symbol of the violence women face in El Salvador that often goes unpunished.

A woman in El Salvador was murdered on average every three days in 2019, and prosecutors opened investigations into 148 cases of femicides last year, official figures show.

“The conviction sends a message of intolerance toward forms of violence against women,” Silvia Juarez, a women’s rights activist in El Salvador, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It sends a message to the rest of the population.”

Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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